Singapore: Divorce Law


From the Family Court of Singapore

What are the reasons ("grounds") on which I can get a divorce?

The court will only grant you a divorce if it is satisfied that your marriage has "irretrievably broken down". In order to prove that your marriage has "irretrievably broken down", you must be able to show the existence of at least one of the following facts ("grounds"):

(a) That your spouse has committed adultery (i.e. had consensual sexual relations with a person other than yourself), and that you find it intolerable to live with him/her; and/or

(b) That your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her (for example, your spouse has committed family violence against you); and/or

(c) That your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years just before you start your divorce proceedings; and/or

(d) That you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 3 years just before you start divorce proceedings, and your spouse agrees to the divorce; and/or

(e) That you and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of at least 4 years just before you start divorce proceedings. In this case, your spouse does not need to agree to the divorce.

Note that for a) above, if you continue to live with your spouse for more than 6 months after you discover the adultery, you cannot rely on adultery to petition for a divorce.
For c) above, desertion means leaving you without your agreement and without any reasonable cause. In exceptional cases, where your spouse has without reasonable cause driven you out of the home and continues to exclude you from the house for a period of two years, that can also constitute desertion by your spouse.

For d) and e) above, "living apart" requires the intention of staying apart from each other with the view of ending the marriage, as well as the physical act of staying apart. However, you may still be considered as staying apart even if you and your spouse are staying at the same address, if you and your spouse have led completely separate lives and have separate households (i.e. not staying in the same bedroom, not having sexual relations, not doing any household chores such as cooking, washing, cleaning, ironing, etc. together, or for each other; not having meals together as a family; not going out together as a family, etc.) for the required length of time, for the purposes of obtaining a divorce based on three or four years' separation.

My spouse and I got married overseas/My spouse and I have not lived inSingapore for many years--can we still get a divorce in the Singapore courts?

You can get a divorce in the Singapore courts even if you got married overseas, or if you do not live in Singapore, so long as:

(a) Either you or your spouse has lived in Singapore for a period of 3 years just before your divorce proceedings start; or

(b) Either you or your spouse is "domiciled" in Singapore at the start of your divorce proceedings, i.e. that Singapore is your permanent home. A Singaporecitizen and a Singapore permanent resident is assumed to be "domiciled" inSingapore, unless the contrary is proved.

But even if you can prove one or both of the above factors, your spouse may argue that it would be more appropriate for the divorce proceedings to be dealt with in another country, for various reasons, for example, because you are both citizens of that country, and are intending to return there to live permanently in a short while.

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